The deadline for our ASSU Awards is fast approaching. For three of our most competitive awards, the Nowlan, Gardner, and Shihipar Awards, the deadline is January 20th, 2017. More information and the application can be found at http://assu.ca/services-resources/assu-awards/
The results have been counted and unfortunately our levy referendum failed to pass. We are understandably upset, but acknowledge that the majority of students were unwilling to support us at this time. We would like to thank all those students who voted— but especially those who voted yes. Even with the results the way they are, the ASSU Executive is dedicated to continuing to work for our students in every capacity we can, including continuing to provide support and funding to our course unions. We are also dedicated to continuing to make our membership’s education more affordable, through our awards, bursaries, and undergraduate travel grants. We hoped to be able to expand these awards and services in the future, but for now we’ll endeavour to find creative ways to alleviate the financial and academic stress which is the daily toll of U of T students.
This levy marked the first time that the Arts and Science Students’ Union used the University of Toronto’s on-line voting system, and we were hoping for an increase in participation. The final votes cast are disappointing in light of the size of our membership, and show only a small increase compared to our last paper ballot in 2010. Regardless of whether students supported the levy or not, we were hoping to see more engaging numbers.
This levy offered a chance for our Course Unions to engage our membership on the critical issues that face Arts and Science Students, but most of the discussion we witnessed centred on events that have been in the news lately about one instructor on our campus. It is with rueful irony that the Executive witnessed our union –and levy referendum, come under attack for their choice to speak out on that issue.
We would like to thank the Chief Returning Officer, Jesse Berlin, and Deputy Returning Officer, Emma Hansen for their work –especially operating an in-person poll over the course of two days. If anyone has questions or concerns regarding the vote in any way, please contact our CRO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The results will be formally submitted to our regular ASSU Council Meeting on November 15th for approval.
The Executive of the Arts and Science Students’ Union
Dear Arts & Science Students:
The Arts & Sciences Students’ Union (ASSU) will be holding a Referendum on Wednesday, November 2nd and Thursday, November 3rd to increase the ASSU fee by $3 per term. The last ASSU Fee Referendum was 6 years ago in the fall of 2010. Since then, with the additional money from that referendum, we were able to increase funding to Course Union, provide more programming for students, as well as create and increase the funds, bursaries, scholarships and awards we provide.
ASSU traditionally operates on a 5-year plan – we are currently in year 6 and with the growth of our programming and the increase in the number of Course Unions we support, we are now operating on a budget that far exceeds our income. ASSU still continues to operate on one of the lowest student levies on campus, but to continue the services we provide, we are asking our students to support a fee increase. As well, there will be a second referendum question asking for our student levy to rise with inflation, a practice that most student groups on campus (including UTSU, APUS, GSU, etc.) already have in place.
The ASSU Office provides many services to A&S students – including guidance and counselling, photocopying and faxing, a term test library, print services, cold pop and answering students’ questions. ASSU contributes to the undergraduate student experience by funding over 65 departmental and program Course Unions so they can organize academic and social events for their students. Behind the scenes, ASSU has successfully lobbied the administration for services and policies that directly affect our students – such as, the option of CR-NCR courses, the ability to drop courses until the last day of classes without academic penalty, the policy about Repeating Passed Courses, the implementation of the Wait List, the 24hr Robarts Study Space, the Interest Relief on Outstanding Fees (until November), the Revised A&S Appeals Process, ensuring that students had other options beside Turnitin to prove their lack of plagiarism, and the review a number of syllabi to guarantee that key components—such as accessibility statements—become mandatory.
Over the past years, we—as an organization—have led and organized a multitude of events, programming, and academic talks. In addition, we have created numerous new awards, bursaries, and scholarships. Over the last 6 years, we have increased the amount of money designated towards awards and bursaries from $15,000 to over $35,000. The last referendum allowed us to dedicate $8,500+ to establish the now widely-known ASSU Travel Grant Fund to alleviate the financial burden placed on undergraduates who are invited to conferences to present their academic work. Furthermore, we created two endowed scholarships worth a combined $150,000. Finally, to further promote academic excellence at the University, we have worked with the Dean’s Office—setting aside $10,000—to create a joint fund to finance undergraduate research. If this referendum is passed, we will continue to follow the same pattern to ensure that more financial aid is given back to students who need it.
Every full-time student is a member of at least one of our Course Unions and receives the benefit of being represented by them, as well as being able to attend their free events. We have increased funding to Course Unions over the years so they can continue to provide social and academic opportunities for their students. The number of Course Unions we now fund has increased by 11 since 2010, with two more new ones joining us this year.
ASSU plans to continue expanding on our established programming and the lobbying work we do. This includes our bi-annual Exam Jam de-stressers, and our academic talks which have in the past featured prominent individuals such as Ta-Nahesi Coates and Wab Kinew. We continue to work with and lobby the Dean’s Office for improvements to policies affecting our students – such as access to comments from the online course evaluations.
Most notably, we held a joint referendum last year asking students if they preferred to have an actual Fall Reading Week (one that lasts an entire week), rather than the two days that are currently allotted to us. The referendum was successful, and we are now working with the Dean’s Office to ensure that this change in the calendar will be instituted in the next academic year.
We hope that you will show your support for the Arts & Science Students’ Union by VOTING YES on November 2nd and 3rd to increase the ASSU fee by $3 per term.
The ASSU Executive